PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Pirates of Penzance and Little Night Music's Hunter Ryan Herdlicka Picks Sondheim Favorites

By Michael Gioia
July 10, 2013

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, who will star in the 5th Avenue Theatre production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, made his Broadway debut in the Stephen Sondheim classic A Little Night Music. Here, he picks his favorite Sondheim tunes as part of Playbill.com's Playbill Playlist series.



Herdlicka, who played Henrik Egerman in the 2009 revival of Night Music alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury (and later, Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch), will play Frederic in Penzance, which will begin previews July 11 in Seattle.

He is joined by a cast that includes Brandon O'Neill, David Pichette, Anne Eisendrath, Anne Allgood, Billie Wildrick, Cayman Ilika, Jenny Shotwell, Katherine Strohmaier, Ryah Nixon, Corinna Munter, Kirsten Helland, Michelle Ankrim, Sarah Rose Davis, Lindsey Hedberg, Greg Stone, Matt Owen, Blaine Boyd, CJ Eldred, Henry Nettleton, Tobias McCurry, Riley Neldam, Jared Michael Brown, Matt Posner, Dane Stokinger, Aaron Shanks, Andrew Davison, Nick DeSantis, Heather Saunders, Eric Hagreen and Matt Wolfe.

In anticipation of Penzance, which will run through Aug. 4, Playbill.com asked Night Music's Herdlicka to pick his favorite Sondheim songs and tell us why they made his list.

For more information on 5th Avenue's Pirates of Penzance, visit 5thAvenue.org.

"We Do Not Belong Together" from Sunday in the Park With George. This song is the culmination of the one the most powerful moments in Sunday In the Park… The sheer rawness of Bernadette [Peters] and Mandy [Patinkin]'s performances on the cast album transports you immediately back to the Booth Theatre. I can't help being moved every time I hear it, as Sondheim so brilliantly explores what it means to be a tortured artist and torn between passions of the heart and intellect.

"The Glamorous Life" from the film version of A Little Night Music. I'll never tire of singing this piece, even though it was written for a girl. The song takes you on a thrilling journey of excitement and fear, of joy and sadness, of acceptance and deep regret. Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations are top notch as well, and perhaps some of his best work.

"Moments in the Woods" from Into the Woods. A perfect sung-through soliloquy. Sondheim's painfully clever lyrics prove that he understands life on almost a transcendental level — want versus need, desires of the heart versus desires of the flesh. "Oh, if life were made of moments — even now and then a bad one! But if life were only moments, then you'd never know you had one."

 "Pretty Women" from Sweeney Todd. One of the most gorgeous melodic lines that hypnotically teeters on the subjects of murder, lust and love. Completely sublime.

"In Buddy's Eyes" from Follies. It's so hard to find a performance of this song that really works. The song is so much more than what it appears to be. It's a moment for Sally to try and convince Ben and herself that she is completely happy and satisfied while they both (along with the audience) see how absolutely miserable she is underneath. Sondheim's signature is expressing regret and the dichotomy of emotions, playing the opposite. For example, when the song is at its most ballad-like phrases, there is still a haunting, pulsing bass underneath keeping it alive, like a heart or a time bomb, if you will.

"If You Can Find Me, I'm Here" from Evening Primrose. No explanation necessary. Brilliant, wordy and clever lyrics, exciting and innovative melodies, etc. You get the idea.

"A Weekend in the Country" from A Little Night Music. This was one of the most exciting songs every night to sing on Broadway. Towards the end of the song, Henrik's vocal line (which is written in a waltz) is layered on top of all of the other characters' lines (their meter is written in 4), showing that Henrik is completely out of sync with the rest of the group. It's a fascinating and exciting musical number in which Sondheim does all of the work for you — the music creates all of the chaos and uncertainty without the actor having to do a thing.

"More" from "Dick Tracy." "Any number is fine with me, as long as it's more."

"Marry Me A Little" from Company. It's hard to choose this single song from Company, but I did. "Have I Got A Girl For You," "Barcelona," "Side by Side," "Ladies Who Lunch" and nearly every song from this show should be on this list as well.

"There Won't Be Trumpets" from Anyone Can Whistle. Just gorgeous.